Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated,
But even in doing so, San Jose left several questions floating, the kind that inevitably dog a favored team emerging from a series that went longer than it should have. Those questions provide a juicy subtext for their second round collision with the Dallas Stars, a matchup that gets underway Friday at the Shark Tank.
Is Ron Wilson up to the challenge?
There are few NHL coaches who can feel secure about their continued employment after their season ends in April. Carrying the burden of expectations that come with a division championship and years of playoff disappointments, Wilson was not one of them.
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
Afterwards, Kiprusoff — who begins the first year of a lucrative new six-year contract extension next season — said of coach Mike Keenan’s decision to switch goalies: “It’s not my call. You have to ask somebody else.”
Keenan, that somebody, was blunt in his assessment: “I didn’t think it was controversial,” he said, of his decision to make the goalie switch. “Kipper didn’t play very well. I was surprised. I thought he would give us his best game.”
Flames’ captain Jarome Iginla, who scored their opening goal, was deeply disappointed with the loss, especially since the game was there for the taking, about 23 minutes in, when Calgary held a 2-1 lead on Owen Nolan’s breakaway goal.
“Guys worked extremely hard to get to this point and give us a chance to win the series,” said Iginla. “There was about a 10-minute span there when they won the game and ended up winning the series on us.”
fromm Mark Purdy of the Mercury News,
All you want is a team’s best. Such a modest request for a Game 7. But we all know how hard that has been to find for the Sharks on a consistent basis in the playoffs over the past few years.
But the final score Tuesday settled that matter for now. In nine minutes during the second period, the Sharks settled the issue of whether they can bring their best when it really matters.
“If you have played youth hockey, street hockey, any hockey, you’ve played this game in your head a million times,” Sharks captain Patrick Marleau said afterward.
San Jose—always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Unless tonight is the launching point for them to pose a serious challenge for the Cup that so many expect, but obviously Calgary will have something to say about that. So if you’re betting on former Art Ross Trophy winners, do you put your money on Jarome Iginla or Joe Thornton?
History doesn’t tell us much. According to Sharkspage, the Flames and Sharks have met twice in playoff history: 1995 Conference Quarter-Finals (Sharks won 4 games to 3); and 2004 Western Conference Finals (Flames won 4 to 2).
And statistically-speaking, tonight’s game favors San Jose: since the NHL introduced the best-of-seven format in 1939, a total of 120 playoff series have gone to seven games and the home team has won 76 (63%).
Who goes on to the second round?
From Mark Emmons at the Mercury News,
No matter how intense, physical or downright dirty a series becomes, hockey players suddenly discover their inner-Miss Manners, rein in their raging emotions and shake on it - win or lose. A rugged contest will come to a civilized conclusion.
“We’re probably the most violent sport where you can get hurt at any time,” Sharks Coach Ron Wilson said. “And it’s just an incredible show of respect that when it’s all done, you can leave it right there and shake hands.
“Maybe it’s because we’re a classy sport. Unfortunately, sports can be about chest-bumping and pointing at myself. But that’s not what hockey players are all about.”
from David Pollak of MediaNews via the ContraCosta Times,
Do or die. Win or go home. Pucks or putters.
Pick whatever phrase makes it most clear what the stakes are tonight at HP Pavilion. Because when the Sharks and Calgary Flames square off in the first Game 7 played on home ice in franchise history, there is no shortage of drama and pressure.
So much, in fact, that Sharks coach Ron Wilson rejects the notion that he needs to find a way to motivate his team to play with the required desperation.
“It’s a seventh game. If you don’t win, you’re out. If I have to manufacture desperation, we’re in dire straits,” Wilson said shortly after the Flames beat the Sharks 2-0 on Sunday night to force this hard-fought series into a one-game showdown. “Our players know what’s at stake.”
from Scott Morrison of CBC at his Viewpoint blog,
The loser tonight in San Jose, either the Calgary Flames or the Sharks, is indeed out.
But it is not quite that simple, though in many ways it is.
There is much more at stake for the Sharks tonight, specifically the future of the coaching staff and the roster as we know it.
It is highly doubtful that management will resist making significant change again if this team doesn’t at the very least reach the Stanley Cup final, nevermind put away the pesky Flames.
From Allen Cameron at the Calgary Herald,
Fresh off hitting for a $1-million payout in a harness-racing wager in his native Sweden on Saturday, the talented forward responded with his best game of the playoffs Sunday night at the Pengrowth Saddledome, assisting on Owen Nolan’s eventual game-winner in the first period and playing a role at both ends of the ice in Calgary’s 2-0 series-tying win over the San Jose Sharks.
more… on a big weekend for Huselius
From Dan Rosen at NHL.com,
In one corner is the mainstay, the ol’ reliable in New Jersey Devils’ dynamo Martin Brodeur. Last season, Brodeur captured his third Vezina Trophy in the last four seasons after setting an NHL record with 48 victories. This season he won 44 games.
In another corner, we have the element of surprise, the unlikely candidate in San Jose Sharks veteran Evgeni Nabokov. He has never been a Vezina finalist and had previously never played in more than 67 games in one season. Nabokov played in 77 this time around.
And finally, we have the rising star, the current and future “King” of New York in Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. This is Lundqvist’s third-straight season as a Vezina finalist, meaning he’s been in the final three in each of his three NHL seasons.
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
Yes, that was Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing playing over the loudspeaker system, just minutes before the Calgary Flames took to the ice last night against the San Jose Sharks with their playoff lives on the line.
Hey, if it was good enough for the final episode of The Sopranos, it was good enough for the Flames, too….
“It’s a different feeling when you come to the rink knowing it could be your last game of the year,” Flames captain Jarome Iginla said afterward. “We faced it now once and we know we’re going to need the same type of effort [in San Jose]. They’re going to be desperate the way we were tonight.
“It’s going to be fun. You can look back at different points in the series, but to have it come down to Game 7? Pretty cool.”
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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